Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Laurie King and Sherlock Holmes

My introduction to Laurie King was the first book in her series starring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (!). Now there have been many authors lately who have tried writing books that include Sherlock Holmes, either as a main character or in a supporting role – and most of them have just not (to my mind) captured the essence of that wonderful Conan Doyle character. So it was with much hesitation that I began reading The Beekeepers Apprentice.

What a wonderful surprise. King has managed to create a brilliant young woman in Mary Russell, and her meeting and partnering with the great Detective Holmes is natural, believable and spot on. Holmes has retired from the detective business and is keeping bees, of all things, in the Sussex countryside.

Mary is a precocious and very bright 14 year old who lost her family in a terrible automobile accident in California. She has come to England to live with her only living relative, her mother’s sister – NOT a very bright woman and not a woman very sympathetic to a bereaved, but very independent teenager. Mary stumbles (literally) into Mr. Holmes while he is observing a group of bees – and they soon discover they are, despite their age differences, quite birds of a feather. And they begin to solve crimes together – first some very small, local problems and then a major kidnapping. It is a joy to go with them on their adventures.

The Women’s Rights movement in London forms the backdrop of the second book in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and also further develops the characters of Russell and Holmes (as they refer to each other). They are a wonderful fictional pair – almost as fun as Holmes and Watson – and I highly recommend them.

Other titles in the series are:
A Letter of Mary
The Moor
O’ Jerusalem (a prequel, of sorts)
Justice Hall
The Game
Locked Rooms

The Language of Bees (set for publication in April 2009)

It is better, by the way, to read the books in order. Have fun. Meg



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